Category Archives: homesickness

There Is No Place LIke Home. Unless It’s The Other Home.

I have been back in Texas for exactly a month now.  It has been great  re-connecting with friends and resuming a (minimal) level of productivity.  It’s nice to wake up and have a purpose for my day, other than simply wandering, slack-jawed, around the most beautiful city on earth.  That said, I am very much looking forward to flying back to Paris this Thursday for a 10-day visit with my sweet husband and the city I have grown to love.    As I have mentioned previously, my ex-pat experience  has been a constant state of embracing one home and missing the other.  I am always happy to be in Paris, while simultaneously missing my first home in Houston.  And when here in Houston, I luxuriate in the comforts of home, while pining for Paris and all of her allure.

After a month in Houston, here is a sampling of what I am loving and what I am missing.

LOVE:

1.  Being close to my family

Having all three kids in my time zone feels like a luxury, and how nice to say goodbye to my family  in Austin without tears!

2. The quiet of my bedroom

A month of not hearing car horns, car alarms, drunks, or crazy people outside my bedroom at all hours of the morning.  Guess what I hear?  BIRDS!  I had almost forgotten about those little creatures!

3. Familiarity

Good Morning America as I make breakfast, NPR in my car, knowing where to go to get anything I might need.  It’s such a relief not to feel like a total  idiot every single day.

4. Friendliness of Strangers

I know many French people think we are shallow and phony because we tend to smile at people we don’t know (and sometimes even people we do), but to me it’s a way of acknowledging that everyone around us is sacred and worthy and struggling.  Is it so hard to smile at  people we may never see again?

5.  Customer service

It’s a beautiful thing.

6.  Regular gym attendance

Yes, I walked much more in Paris, but not at a pace that elevated my heart rate.  Unless I was worried that the boulangerie was about to close, of course.  And yes, I did join a gym in Paris, but for some reason it was much more difficult to get myself there.  Maybe because there were always 999 things that sounded more appealing on any given day?

7. Well- stocked grocery stores open all day every day

You know how I feel about that.

8. No cigarettes

If it weren’t for my next door neighbor, who smokes on our shared front porch, I wouldn’t have inhaled any second-hand smoke in a month.  Ahhhhh.

9. The livin’ is easy

SO much easier, in almost every way.  The daily challenges of Paris can be wearisome.

MISS:

1.  My husband!

2. The eye-popping beauty that is everywhere you look in Paris

Buildings, streets, bridges, the Seine- they’re all so beautiful, and I never get desensitized to it.

3. Hearing French

Yes, while the language contributes to much of my Paris frustration, I never tire of hearing it spoken around me.

4. Walking

Walking, walking, and walking some more.

5. The bread and butter

You knew I would sneak that in somewhere, didn’t you?

6. Sitting at cafes for as long as I want

7. Riding the bus

8. Gorgeous fresh produce grown locally, still wearing the soil it sat in the day before.

9. The stimulation

Everything is a mystery to me in Paris.  What did that guy just say?  What is that thing in the street for? How does she walk in those shoes? What is that green drink everyone seems to be drinking?  Constantly trying to figure out the world around me, and how to make a dinner reservation over the phone, while exhausting, is also very stimulating.  My life in Paris is never dull or ordinary.

IMG_2837

If you want to see anything special from my upcoming trip to Paris, let me know and I will try to get it on here for you.  I suspect that the unusual snow of last week will be gone, but I would be thrilled if I could capture  the magic of Paris in white.  The pictures on Twitter have been amazing.

Last Saturday I happened to hear a radio clip of David Sedaris reading from his book Me Talk Pretty One Day.  The segment included his account ( I wish it were fictional but it’s probably true) of being on the Paris metro with four Texans who were discussing (loudly) the relative merits of Paris and Houston.  I found the segment in an archive of This American Life (which I also miss when I am in Paris, even though it’s available on the computer, because I never think to listen to it there).  Here it is:

David Sedaris

It was July, and Hugh and I were taking the Paris Metro from our neighborhood to a store where we hoped to buy a good deal of burlap. During the summer months, a great number of American vacationers can be found riding the Metro, and their voices tend to carry. It’s something I hadn’t noticed until leaving home, but we are a loud people.

On the first of our two trains, I listened to a quartet of college-age Texans who sat beneath a sign instructing passengers to surrender their seats and stand, should the foyer of the train become too crowded. The foyer of the train quickly became too crowded. And, while the others stood to make more room, the young Texans remained seated and raised their voices in order to continue their debate, the topic being which is the better city, Houston or Paris?

[LAUGHTER]

David Sedaris

It was a hot afternoon, and the subject of air conditioning came into play. Houston had it, Paris did not. Houston also had ice cubes, tacos, plenty of free parking, and something called a Sonic burger. Things were not looking good for Paris, which lost valuable points every time the train stopped to accept more passengers.

The crowds packed in, surrounding the seated Texans and reducing them to four disembodied voices. From the far corner of the car, one of them shouted that they were tired and dirty and ready to catch the next plane home. The voice was weary and hopeless, and I identified completely. It was the same way I’d felt on my last visit to Houston.

I don’ t know if David Sedaris still lives in Paris, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t live in Houston.  He clearly has never had a Sonic burger.

Au revoir, mes amis!  Next stop- Paris!

14 Comments

Filed under homesickness, Paris, Texas, Uncategorized

Revisit Year- Old Post With A Year’s Experience In The Tank

Last July, a month before my big move to Paris, I wrote this post about what I anticipated missing the most about  my life in Texas.  Several people told me it was one of their favorite posts (which is kind of sad since this is a blog about Paris, but whatever…) and I thought it would be fun to look at it again and comment on my predictions now that I have a year of Paris experience.  So here it is.

As excited as I am about finally, finally moving to Paris, I am acutely aware that I will miss lots and lots of things about my hometown/homeland. As my remaining days tick down, here are some things I want to do as often as possible before I leave, because I suspect I will be missing them monstrously.

1. Eat Tex-Mex. Often. Like, once a day.  Washed down with a frozen with salt, of course.

Although I do miss Mexican food, there clearly is no shortage of tasty eating in Paris.  I think what I miss most is not Mexican food per se, but is the presence of heat, spice, or any kind of “kick” in any food I typically order.  The French are NOT fans of spicy.  I, on the other hand, like it hot.  This year I hope to discover more Asian restaurants and ethnic markets.  I know they are all over the city- just not in my neighborhood.

2. Take Sawyer to dog parks where he can run free like the wind.

Here’s a little secret- Sawyer is not going to Paris with me tomorrow.  I know- Wonderchien will be missed- but Wonderson is going to keep him happy here in Texas and give me a break from Dog Duty In The City.  I will miss him, but not the walks in the rain and the mud and the resulting mess in the apartment as that rain and mud drips off his long hair and scatters around the  floors.  But yes, I did miss being able to unleash Wonderchien in Paris.  We did it on the sly after the Park Police abandoned their posts, but it wasn’t the same as the spacious, pond-filled dog parks he loves here.

3. Walk into stores and understand what is being said to me/around me/ about me.  Then speak back to those people  and have the right words come out in the right order.  Such a luxury!

Oh yeah.  I definitely missed that.  The ability to communicate is a beautiful thing.  Don’t ever forget that.  

4. Do all my errands in my sweaty workout clothes, with no make-up, hair in a pony.  When I think of how much time I will be wasting making myself presentable before I hit the streets, it makes me cringe.  What is with those people??

Check.  My first trip back to HEB in my Nike shorts, ACL T-shirt, and no make-up was a very happy day.  I do, however, really appreciate how good everyone looks on the street in Paris.  It is refreshing to be surrounded by stylish, well-groomed people.  I just wish I could be one of them without having to try so hard.

5. Be handed drinks with lots of ice.

I got over that pretty quickly.  If it’s not hot, I really don’t care that much.  And actually, I hardly ever order soda in Paris (because Diet Coke tastes like Pepsi and costs $5 or more) and wine tastes fine without ice.

6. Have a mani-pedi every other day.

As much as I enjoy pedicures here, I didn’t really miss them that much.  My feet are usually entombed in boots and socks, so pretty feet would be wasted in Paris.  

7. Go to Target and buy lots of crap I don’t need.

Nope, don’t miss that.  The lack of mass consumption has actually been very refreshing.  There just aren’t any big stores with big carts and big inventory.  And guess what?  I didn’t need the stuff I wasn’t buying.  And I didn’t miss it.  Same for TJ Maxx (and I never thought I would be saying that, believe me).

8. Drive my car on the open road until I get bored.

Driving and owning cars is way over-rated.  I didn’t miss my car a whit.  And after a summer of maintaining, gassing, insuring, repairing, and stickering several vehicles, I am so ready to hang up the keys.

9. Pop into Blue Willow Bookshop and talk books with my homies.

Duh.

10. Wrap my arms around my older daughter and cover her with kisses.

Yeah, I so missed my two kids who didn’t go with us.  There’s just no way around that one.  Thank goodness for email, texts, Skype, and Facebook.

11. Go to the Big HEB and buy everything I need for a week’s worth of meals, PLUS a bag of steaming hot tortillas.  Then rip into said bag of steaming hot tortillas on way home, because they are that freakin’ good and nobody can see me in the privacy of my own car.

I did miss that a lot at first, but as I slowly figured out grocery shopping (and grocery delivery) in Paris, my HEB pangs faded.  But you know I love it when I’m home.

12.  Do all of the above in flip-flops.  Because Paris doesn’t like flip-flops.  Paris looks at you like you’re out in your underwear if you wear flip-flops.  Have I mentioned how much I love flip-flops?

Nah.  Turns out you really don’t want to walk miles and miles of Paris streets in flip-flops.  Too much risk of being stepped on, and who really walks miles in flip-flops?  

13.  Order cocktails that taste like I expect them to AND cost less than $20 apiece.  Yep- you heard me.  It’s enough to drive a girl to not drink.

Yeah, I pretty much gave up cocktails in Paris, but I haven’t missed them.  Have I mentioned that the wine is pretty awesome?

14. Go outside and sweat and then come inside and NOT sweat.

There were a few hot days, but nothing to stress about.  We never even used our portable AC units.

15.  Watch Food Network.

Yes, I missed Barefoot Contessa a lot, and I never had a sighting of her in Paris, which was most vexing.  But I will never stop stalking her and one day I will find her.  I mean it, Ina.

Thanks for stopping by on my last day in Houston.

Next post from Paris!  Y’all come back now, ya hear?

11 Comments

Filed under homesickness, Uncategorized

A Little Bit of Texas for A Homesick Texan

shelled and unshelled pecans

Image via Wikipedia

I guess I have left you all in suspense long enough.  I told you that when we finally arrived home from our very delayed flight from Malaga, we received a nice surprise.  Here is how it went down.

A dear neighbor of mine from Houston was coming to Paris on the day we left for Spain (I hate it when that happens) and was leaving early Monday morning.  She was to come over to our apartment when we returned on Sunday night, but as that time approached 11:00, I was afraid she wouldn’t come.  Never underestimate the fortitude of a Texas woman!  She did indeed come over, and look what she brought!

These are a few of my favorite things....

It was the Texas mother lode!  I didn’t realize how much chicken broth I used until I had to make it from a powder each time.  How did she ever carry four boxes?  And take a look at those bags of precious pecans!  I never met a dessert I didn’t think could be improved by a handful of pecans, and now I have many a handful!  Just in time for pecan pie at Thanksgiving, too.  The Hot Tamales were for Martha, although I admit I have thrown back a few.  And the Arm and Hammer toothpaste reminded my mouth what clean teeth are supposed to taste like.  I think Mark must have asked her for the potpourri of candy, as he is The Candy Man around here.  It makes me so happy just seeing these things in my pantry.  Life is sweet when friends surprise you with tastes of home.  But wait–there’s more!

This friend also brought me her daughter, who is starting pastry school at ……the Cordon Bleu!!!!  She hasn’t found an apartment yet so we asked her to please stay with us for as long as she needs to.  She is a doll, and best of all, Martha has been a big fan for several years, so she is thrilled to have her here.  “Mademoiselle Cordon Bleu”  promises that soon she will be bringing home plastic containers of The Lesson Of The Day-how sweet is that?  I am already peppering her with questions about what the school is like.  Maybe I”ll get enough scoop for a blog post- or at least enough treats for some blog photos!  We are hoping she doesn’t find an apartment anytime soon.

Mark was in Houston until just hours before our departure for Spain, and while he was there another sweet friend gave him a few more Texas treats for me!  The red pot is a candle that smells just like a Christmas greenery, which will be sadly missing from Chez Mai Paris.  We will definitely light that baby up, but not until after Thanksgiving.

Tacos and beans- sounds like supper!

Finally,  “Mom Cordon Bleu” also brought me a package wrapped in my beloved blue and white paper from Blue Willow Bookshop.  I think I got teary-eyed before I even opened it to find a copy of Lisa Fain’s new cookbook, The Homesick Texan.  I have followed her blog, The Homesick Texan, for a year or so and have bookmarked many recipes along the way.  I was  sorry to miss her signing at Blue Willow, and my friends there were so sweet to have Lisa sign a copy  for me (“From one Homesick Texan to another”), and then to write little notes in it themselves.  It is so nice to be reminded of home and all the love that resides there.

food porn for the deprived

Unfortunately, I don’t think Paris is on Lisa’s book tour, but if it were, I would ask her to bring me some chilis, because those Spinach and Sour Cream Enchiladas with Tomatillo Salsa sure look good.

Eat some Tex-Mex for me this week, friends, and I’ll think of y’all when I bite into that chocolate eclair that somehow followed me home from the patisserie on the corner!

7 Comments

Filed under cooking, homesickness

Moving Day

I can't believe she put that video on her blog.

Today our furniture arrives at our Paris apartment.  Mark is there to meet the movers and tell them where to put that really tall bookcase and which beds go in which rooms.  Speaking of beds, I know he will be relieved to sleep in our king bed again.  The rental furniture bed was European, which meant the (very firm) mattress was set in a frame that barely hovered above the floor.  It wasn’t the most comfortable.  I can’t wait to see how our stuff looks in that space, which is so very different from the space it has previously occupied.

Change is almost always hard,  I think.  Here was how Sawyer felt about leaving his brothers and sisters (and humans) behind when we brought him to our house for the first time.. I know I will have similar feelings of sadness and frustration in my new home, too.  However, I hope to be gnawing on a baguette rather than a palm frond.

Please ignore the commentary- it wasn’t shot for distribution.  I really just wanted to try out the new video upgrade I added to my blog!

Leave a comment

Filed under homesickness, moving, Uncategorized

Top Fifteen Things I Want To Do Before I Move

As excited as I am about finally, finally moving to Paris, I am acutely aware that I will miss lots and lots of things about my hometown/homeland. As my remaining days tick down, here are some things I want to do as often as possible before I leave, because I suspect I will be missing them monstrously.

1. Eat Tex-Mex. Often. Like, once a day.  Washed down with a frozen with salt, of course.

2. Take Sawyer to dog parks where he can run free like the wind.

3. Walk into stores and understand what is being said to me/around me/ about me.  Then speak back to those people  and have the right words come out in the right order.  Such a luxury!

4. Do all my errands in my sweaty workout clothes, with no make-up, hair in a pony.  When I think of how much time I will be wasting making myself presentable before I hit the streets, it makes me cringe.  What is with those people??

5. Be handed drinks with lots of ice.

6. Have a mani-pedi every other day.

7. Go to Target and buy lots of crap I don’t need.

8. Drive my car on the open road until I get bored.

9. Pop into Blue Willow Bookshop and talk books with my homies.

10. Wrap my arms around my older daughter and cover her with kisses.

11. Go to the Big HEB and buy everything I need for a week’s worth of meals, PLUS a bag of steaming hot tortillas.  Then rip into said bag of steaming hot tortillas on way home, because they are that freakin’ good and nobody can see me in the privacy of my own car.

12.  Do all of the above in flip-flops.  Because Paris doesn’t like flip-flops.  Paris looks at you like you’re out in your underwear if you wear flip-flops.  Have I mentioned how much I love flip-flops?

13.  Order cocktails that taste like I expect them to AND cost less than $20 apiece.  Yep- you heard me.  It’s enough to drive a girl to not drink.

14. Go outside and sweat and then come inside and NOT sweat.

15.  Watch Food Network.

I’m sure I will think of another fifteen things before I go to sleep tonight.  What would you miss if you were moving to Paris in a month?  Inquiring bloggers want to know.

18 Comments

Filed under homesickness, Uncategorized